Pundits have already started wondering how long it will take Americans to get stupid after we emerge, someday, from our depressing recession. Stupid meaning spending beyond our means, particularly on non-essential consumer junk. Forgetting how hard it hurts when gas prices here are, oh, maybe 3/4 as high as they are in other industrialized countries. Hey, we've already started buying SUVs again. Truly, it boggles the mind.
I'm a shopper. Let's just get that out into the open. I have not the handy and admirable virtue, like CityMom, of being frugal, excessive or not. But I have cut down over the years, both because of competing monetary priorities, because quality over quantity is better for the planet, and because I'm irrationally picky, particularly about clothing (No pockets, except for jeans. But no blue jeans; only black or navy. No frills. No rounded necklines; v-neck only. No leather, as far as possible. It's exhausting.).
But shopping just sucks these days. It's scary to spend money at all, for one, and I don't think I'll forget these days. Even after our economy rights itself, I can't see going back to my old spendiness. Plus, I'm far too used to getting the deal to pay full price anymore. Less than 35% off? Nah. Pay for shipping? You gotta be kidding!
It also looks like the chain retailers have just stopped trying. At Banana Republic yesterday, the racks were crammed haphazardly; the spring lines - that tired nautical theme again - already marked down. I noticed for the first time the garish colors and ill-considered designs of the clothing. When we turn the spotlight more fully on our potential purchases, they're revealed as the crap they really are. "Go ahead, take two" one sign over piles of nondescript denim pants read. Two? Good heavens, why? I headed for the door. Sears was even more dismal, its bland items hanging limply and so cheap -- a Land's End parka for twenty-something bucks -- that they turned me off completely. If it's that cheap, it must not have been worth buying in the first place.
Over at J.Crew, the merchandise was still fetching and thoughtfully arranged; the salespeople still helpful. But $98 for a denim skirt? I might have rolled over in the past, if the item was a classic and absolutely perfect in every respect. But now I know that if I sit tight it will be marked down very soon.
I do worry that those purveyors of good-quality, reasonably priced items (like Hanna Andersson clothing for kids) will perish. I'd like to help them out. But I just can't bring myself to buy.